Gypsies in the city: culture patterns and survival

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Conjugal right through wife's lines D. Affinal right through children's marital lines E. Friendship alliance F. If the vitsa decides to move, the entire group can migrate, thereby buffering the unknown and giving mutual assistance and comfort to its members. Numerical strength is preserved, and all may benefit from the varied talents of individuals. The vitsa as the agent of extraordinary migration is well documented in Romany history. The European chronicles of the fifteenth century indicate that a single vitsa "opened up" Western Europe, entering as a single group, splitting into smaller units perhaps extended families for exploration, rejoining periodically for information-sharing and strategy plotting, redeploying in small groups, and reuniting.

It is even possible that this original vitsa returned from whence it came, either in whole or part, to summon allied bands to the new area. The American Gypsies were willing to sponsor the European Rom only if the newcomers would agree to hand over their daughters as brides without the usual brideprice, of course. The European groups chose to embark for South America instead, again in vitsa units. Vitsa Leadership. Sociopolitical Organization of the Nomads 71 In at least one sense, both statements are true, for, inasmuch as Gypsy leadership tends tobe hereditary-j-one of the sons of the "formerleader"usll'il1fy'beco'metfeader in turn-as kingship is, one may say Gypsy leaders are kings; nevertheless, insofar as kings are assumed to be absolute rulers with the power of life and death over their subjects, Gypsies cannot be said to have kings.

Another family had the necessary wealth and manpower, but a campaign to obtain recognition was unsuccessful because the aspiring chief lacked the family prestige essential to the job. It is usual for the chieftainship to remain within the same extended family, ifnot the same nuclear family.

But that nuclear family may well have had five or six sons, and the extended family a dozen or more. Furthermore, a long-lived chief can continue to rule until his grandsons are old enough to succeed to leadership; thus, leadership may skip a generation if a more suitable candidate exists among the younger males. What may seem to an outsider as a limited choice of candidates for leadership-the successor being a member of the "royal family"-proves to be almost an overabundance. Another advantage to the vitsa members is the awareness of competition among the potential candidates, for it forces the less capable to bow out of the race early while it increases the motivation of the others to improve their skills assiduously.

Those who would protest that the males of the royal family are compelled to outdo themselves constantly forget that leadership requires a strong personality, and, as the American saying goes, "Those who can't stand the heat should get out of the kitchen. The children are watched unobtrusively whenever vitsa members visit the chiefs home: Are they poised or awkward? Are they respectful toward their elders, self-assertive with their equals, and protective toward younger children?


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The royal playgroup differs only by virtue of having all the young eligibles in it. The boys are rated for such qualities as timidity bad , strength good , tenacity also good , sense of humor probably helpful if he does not develop into a clown , troublemaker probably undesirable but at least an indication of originality , poor judgment bad , and high self-esteem good. Sociopolitical Organization of the Nomads 75 Gypsy youngsters participate in many of the activities of the adult members of their families. In this manner, they are exposed from an early age to the experiences of the adults.

By just listening to the conversation of the adults, children can learn a great deal about daily matters.

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Even the quiet, stay-at-home evenings normally devoted to storytelling have a different em phasis in the chiefs family, for the youngsters are exposed to numerous tales of the exploits of their ancestors and to long narratives of their own group's past history. These tales are part of the oral traditions of the Rom and serve as unwritten training manuals and textbooks of politics in the education of the young students Cotten All Gypsy boys are allowed to accompany their fathers and older brothers in their daily rounds; at first, the boys join male activities sporadically, but gradual incorporation into the adult world is stepped up as each individual youth demonstrates his ability and skills.

The boys of the chiefs family, too, are invited along when some of the men go out on business but their business, of course, tends to be political in nature. The boys also begin to attend the kris at an earlier age than the other youths; perhaps the kris is the most important experience for the preparation of new leaders. Thus far, I have discussed political leadership.

However, one must not assume that political leadership is transferable to another domain of life; a political leader may not be a good economist, for example. There is no transferability ofleadership among the Rom. Leadership must be earned in each area oflife anew, and the Rom recognize that all-around excellence is hard to find. Gypsies believe that everybody has a special talent for a certain job and that no one is good at everything. This attitude is psychologically beneficial, for its converse-that no one is a total failure-allows a Gypsy to retain his self-respect, for surely the group will benefit from his particular talent at some point.

Godparenthood is not as important to the Rom as it is to Latin Americans, for example, possibly because Gypsy godparents are often away from each other. Often good friends of the family are chosen as godparents; this friendship element outweighs considerations of kinship, status, and even ethnic identity. In one Macvaja group I know, the families often ask Greeks to act as godparents for the new babies because they claim that "Greeks enjoy being godparents and have a good heart toward babies.

Godparents are supposed to provide some spiritual protection toward the baby and its family. The baptismal occasion may be used as a form of blood brotherhood. The social status of the potential godparent is important: the chiefs have proportionately more godchildren than other men. Adoption is an accepted procedure among the Nomad Gypsies, and it is used to equalize family size. Some families receive too large a blessing of children, and others are cursed by few children or sterility.

Most adoptions occur between the families of brothers i. An equal number of boys and girls in a family is helpful because the cost of buying brides for the sons is then balanced by the income received when the daughters leave the family as brides. Since the daughters are not permanent members of the family unless one can arrange for a "male bride," as the Japanese call them , some sons are necessary to carryon the family. In the event that twin boys are born, the Coppersmith Rom usually arrange to have one adopted into another family, preferably in a different city.

They say this is done to protect the twins' father from bad luck. Adoption is not shameful to any of the parties involved; consequently, the fact of adoption is not hidden although it is polite not to mention it to the adoptive parents because it may remind Sociopolitical Organization of the Nomads 79 them of their inability to have children. The children are aware that they are adopted and sometimes visit their natural parents. When the children are older, they may elect to return to their biological parents. In some cases, the original parents may ask for the return of their children.

These requests are not denied. Recently, other adoption sources have been used to compensate for losses incurred by the family when wives bearing children desert their husbands. According to Gypsy law, these unborn children belong to the husband's family; if the men knew about the pregnancy, they would fight for the return of the wife. The Gypsy kinship system's flexibility and bilaterality are suited to Romany needs. It furnishes the ability to change vitsa alliance and to seek aid and protection from both paternal and maternal kin.

Lack of emphasis on seniority within a generation can be compensated for by use of terms of address more appropriate to two generations if extreme age differences calling for formal address exist. An uncle considerably older than one's father may be called "grandfather"; similarly a cousin much older may be addressed as "uncle. The Tribe If one follows an ideal developmental cycle of the vitsa, one arrives at a stage where the vitsa splits because of size or factionalism.

Descent from common ancestors would be remembered for a while; then, time is bound to blur some of the details. However, a sense of kinship would still remain. Hence, bands should be allies because they are distant brothers. In actual practice, however. Teuds and rivalries exist among the vitsas of anyone tribe, while friendship and business interests may crosscut tribal lines albeit not as frequently as the former. The judge must be a man without affiliation to either side; he is responsible for running the trial properly and deciding which customary laws to apply. A group of neutral observers constitutes a form of jury, and many of the observers belong to the judge's own band; they may act as peacemakers as well.

The selection of a judge is predicated on a number of factors. The primary considerations are the judge's impartiality and his acceptability to both sides. Theoretically, then, any difference of opinion between members of two extended families belonging to the same band can be adjudicated before their own chief. Any differences between members of different bands can be argued before the chief of another band but someone who can remain neutral to either side. In the second instance, there is no need to go beyond the tribe to find a judge.

If disputes involve two different tribes, custom would suggest the use of a chief from a third tribe. In actuality, however, some chiefs have a reputation for being outstanding judges, and they are in greater demand for their services than others; requests are not limited to their own tribes. On rare occasions, their services are requested even if their tribal affiliation is "wrong," because they are known for being impartial-a great compliment indeed! A krisjudge with a national reputation whose services are in great demand is a highly respected person; his fame will be perpetuated in legend, and he will serve as a model for others to follow.

No Gypsy leader is obliged to act as judge; his decision is predicated upon a series of factors, most of which have direct bearing on, or are a result of, his own position among the Gypsies. No judge will accept a case unless both sides in the litigation promise to abide by the verdict of the kris; moreover, the participants must take a sworn oath to that effect. Even then, ajudge must make a shrewd calculation about a the sincerity of the litigants; b his own ability to enforce the final verdict he must have at hand the manpower required to prevent the loser from running away ; and c the potential increment of his reputation if he successfully resolves a difficult case.

The Gypsies, like many Asiatic peoples, try to avoid an interpersonal The Kris 83 situation in which one side would be forced to refuse a request directly or to defend itself publicly. The spokesmen, however, are unabashedly partisan, like any other lawyers involved in a trial.

Kris witnesses, on the contrary, are like witnesses in an American case; they are ostensibly neutral unless they are brought in as character witnesses , but their "neutrality" may be open to doubt insofar as their understanding of the case may be faulty or their desire to help a kinsman or friend may tempt them into perjury. Butno Gypsy would be denied admission to the kris, and any who are interested are free to attend. The jury hears the case with the judge and also shares with him the right to question witnesses and to express opinions.

The judge himself is the final authority on customary law and its precedents, but members of the jury are also entitled to refer to these matters. While the case is in progress, jury members may ask for information, and, after both sides have been heard, they may present arguments in favor of one or the other litigant. All men present have a right to speak if they so desire, and each is entitled to equal attention, in order to debate the relative merits of each side. The judge acts to keep order in the court and to help obtain facts, but he may also interact with the jury in an attempt to arrive at the consensus of opinion necessary for a final decision.

If agreement is not reached, the situation is similar to an American "mistrial," and a new trial must be held. A pretty speech is aesthetically pleasing to all; but future leaders are chosen for their ability to gain a following rather than for their skill at using Romany. Some men have charisma, a magnetic personality drawing and holding people by a little understood force that is not amenable to much conscious ma2Brown ; Mitchell 49; Parry The European counterpart is reported by Maximoff b: and Yoors Marriages arranged between families require that an amount of money be given to the bride's parents by the groom's family; although this money traditionally is referred to both by Gypsies and anthropologists as a "b.

In the event that the marriage breaks up, a kris often is necessary to determine how much of the original price if any should be returned to the husband's family. Any family involved in a divorce kris is concerned about its reputation: if the man's family develops a name for being rough on a bori daughter-in-law , it will have trouble not only in getting another wife for the newly divorced man but also for all the other males in the family. After several unfavorable divorce decisions any future cases would tend to go against the man's family on the principle that the existence of so many unhappy women is more than coincidence-as we would say, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Similarly, more than one or two unsatisfactory boris from the same family lead the Rom to suspect that the family involved lacks the ability to raise females properly. Gypsy attitudes toward marriage vary in basic ways from those held by us. Marriage for them is quite definitely more than a union of husband and wife; it involves a lifetime alliance between two extended families. The marriage is arranged between the parents of each spouse, who contract to enter into a xanamik in-law relationship together. The boy's side gives money to the bride's family to establish rights to the children, but the bride's family not only returns part of this progeny price "to share in the marriage," as the Rom phrase it, but also sends the bride to her new home with a trousseau and with enough household equipment to get.

The equivalence of this dowry in dollars may be almost as much as that of the so-called 5eaSe histories may be found in Brown The Kris 87 brideprice.

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I also suspect that returning part of the brideprice may symbolize the right of the woman's family to exercise some influence on the marriage's children. After the wedding, the groom's family carries the burden of the success of the marriage. The bori is actually a stranger within her husband's family, but she is a human being after all and thus has certain rights that must be honored.

For example, a bori is entitled to an adequate amount of food, clothing, and rest; etiquette requires that she pretend not to want them, but good manners and common decency also require that her mother-inlaw should insist that she get all of them. In an ideal family, the mother-in-law will say to her own daughters, "The bori has worked hard enough; you finish cleaning the house now.

I remember entering a Gypsy household one Sunday to discover that the daughters were grumbling because their mother had just issued orders that they could not go to the movies that day; they had gone out several evenings during the preceding week without the bori, and now they must stay home so she could enjoy a show, too. Thus, the woman's family will often argue at a divorce kris that their daughter has been made to work constantly, that her inlaws have begrudged her food, that they have never bought her anything, that they have made her stay home all the time.

If these charges are true, the woman is entitled to a redress of gnevances. The bori's natal family prepares her for marriage. Her family raised her; therefore, her character and personality are molded by them. She should be skilled at fortunetelling and sewing, and havea kriowledge of housekeepingOnce married, the bori must change her ways to those of her husband's family; she will learn or relearn how to cook and clean under her mother-in-law's tutelage. Her own mother should have prepared her to expect and accept this. Either side may attempt to cajole or threaten vulnerable members of the judge's family.

Why should a Big Man step into so dangerous a situation? Most chiefs do refuse; in such a case, a judge may be sought for in another country or tribe. Often a peacemaker cannot be found, and there is no way to solve the problem. The situation may get so bad that everyone gives up, and the problem eventually dies of itself. Economic and divorce cases deal with conflicts between individual families; these are "civil" suits. But peacemaking implies the existence of a war between Gypsy groups and implies the potential involvement of all Rom Gypsies; these cases may be viewed as the Romany equivalent of international law.

There is a fourth type of kris, the equivalent of our own "criminal't. Our criminal law is secular, and consequently we Americans differentiate between "crime" and "sin. With the separation of church and state, we Americans find ourselves in a position in which what is criminal may not be sinful say, speeding and what is sinful may not be criminal say, blaspheming.

Gypsies are not faced with this anomaly; for them sins in the sense of transgressions against the godly way, the Gypsy way are crimes and are subject to the kris. Crimes against nature and the universe belong here; they were of greater importance in the days of outdoor camps, the urban environment not being regarded as natural and, therefore, not godly. Modern readers may be surprised to learn that these infringements deal with pollution. The Kris 91 that fresh, clean water is God-given, for plants and animals depend on it for their very existence. In former times, the Rom avoided contact with people who used a brook as a laundry tub or a toilet or a garbage pail.

Pollution was investigated, and, if the culprits were Gypsies, they were warned that they must stop their sinful acts or face the kris. Careless use of the environment enrages man and God. The term "marime" has been translated as "uncleanliness" or "ritual pollution"; it is a concept easily misunderstood by Americans because we use "polluted" as a synonym for "dirty. Similarly, something or someone may be dirty say, an individual who has not had a bath but not necessarily marime.

The elders cannot ignore the incident under these circumstances, and the unfortunate young woman is assured a public hearing. I myself once had occasion to employ to my advantage the potential of a marime kris. A middle-aged man had persisted in paying me unwanted attention all afternoon at the chiefs house where I am an adopted daughter. So, in order to discourage him, I began sweeping the rug and threatened to throw the broom over his head ifhe did not desist.

Having contact with the floor on which feet tread, a broom is marime this is the basis for the contention that Gypsies "fear" a broom ; if the broom passes over one's head, one becomes marime, too. In the instance mentioned, my persecutor stopped short, thought a minute and with a studied lack of concern said he did not think that I, a non-Gypsy, could initiate a marime complaint.

I replied that the legal issues were interesting and perhaps a new precedent could be set. The situation, I continued, had good dramatic potential and should provide days of gossip afterward-an innocent girl trying to defend herself against an older married man with daughters of his own. Unfortunately for the history ofjurisprudence, the man left abruptly, and we shall never know what would have happened at the kris. Marime charges may be filed against anyone who is intractable to the discipline and rules of his own family if the head of the extended family finds it necessary. Gypsy law does not recognize juvenile delinquency as a legal category; in fact, the idea would conflict with the dogma that the family head is responsible for the actions of all its members.

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Any misdeeds by even the junior members might lead to a trial of the Big Man. Consequently, if a recalcitrant youth persists in his crimes despite warnings and threats, the Big Man protects himself and the honor of the family by instituting marime proceedings against the culprit -manufacturing evidence if necessary. When regular checks and balances between the prerogatives of leaders and the prerogatives of followers or the normal equilibrium among chiefs in a common area break down, so that the masses are burdened by a tyrannical ruler, marime may again come to the rescue.

The offender is maneuvered into a polluting situation; when the case comes to trial, others come The Kris 95 forward to testify to still other violations of marime. If the chief is convicted, he loses leadership, and he may never recover his loss of prestige. As a matter of fact, it is too harsh on the culprit and too presumptuous ofthe Rom, who feel that, if a truly heinous sin has been committed, God Himself will see to the punishment in His own time.

One of the most famous Gypsy chiefs became a leader when he was only a thirteen-year-old youth. He was with a large and powerful band in Serbia headed by his father. The boy was intelligent but too ambitious to wait for his father to pass his leadership on to him. Thus, secretively, he approached some of the Big Men to suggest that they change their affiliation and form a new group under his leadership. Apparently, the youth was a convincing talker, and a number of families swore allegiance to him and broke away from the main band.

The Rom were taken completely by surprise; according to the narrative I heard, the wily old chief knew nothing about these plans. The Gypsies were angered at the boy's actions and proposed to the grief-striken father that the boy be captured and held for a marime kris. The old chief refused to allow such a move and successfully used his great influence to prevent the Rom from finding his son. Word of the aborted plans having reached the new young chief, he decided to leave the area before a change of heart occurred, and he led his followers across the ocean to the New World. In the Americas, the band's fortunes thrived.

The chief formed an alliance with a very powerful South American chief, who gave guidance and protection to the youth. When difficulties arose, the band made its way up to Mexico and then crossed the United States border, first locating in Chicago and then in New York City. Each move brought greater fame to the band and its chief and attracted more followers, but the group's reputation was predicated as much on its sharp practices as on its prosperity.

It was respected because it was feared. Finally after World War II, the run of luck reversed: the chief had been imprisoned for draft evasion; the new chief was ineffectual and , unable to control the large segment of the band that had joined up in South America; and other Gypsy bands and tribes were obtaining most of the financial profits available. The Gypsies recognize a body of customary law, a series of edicts originally abstracted from the age-old practices of the people.

I" Romany not being a written language, formal codification cannot be demonstrated; but the Gypsies, like many of the possessors of unwritten languages, emphasize rote memorization oflong verbal statements, and oral transmission must be letter-perfect. Oral material can be preserved and transmitted in this fashion, if the people consider it worthwhile.

For example, Polynesians consider genealogy essential information for their way of life, for a man's status depends upon that of his ancestors. As a result, some Polynesians can not only recite long chains of ancestors for forty-odd generations but also such facts as the migration routes used to arrive at their particular island, together with navigational hazards, historical battles with other people encountered along the way, and the sacred names of the canoes and their equipment.

Jhemorized much of it, and' the youths of the chiefly , familieskno'w that a thorough command of these laws is a necessary skill for aspirants to leadership. Hence, they devote much time and energy to kris law. A legal system, to endure and serve its people, must be flexible-capable of innovation and responsive to changing needs. The Gypsy system has adapted, too.

Some rules simply are overlooked when they no longer can be followed; for instance, the Gypsies today ignore the fact that apartments are stacked one on top of the other. The use of sanitary napkins now serves as an excuse to lessen the rigors of seclusion during menstruation, and the use of hospitals for childbirth means that parturients can return to normal responsibilities within days. As urban living caused increasing crowding for the Rom, their laws pertaining to territoriality have been revised. Fortunetelling locations that were rented from outsiders could be relocated without financial loss, and the rule that such places must be spaced three blocks apart worked no great hardship upon the bands even though close spacing tended to "use up" a neighbor14Yoors refers to it as "bayura"; see also his The Kris 99 hood more rapidly.

However, some of the Rom in New York have invested in real estate, living and doing business in their own properties; they cannot afford to sell out and relocate, and territorial regulations now include the amendment that Gypsy places of business in property owned by Gypsies must be surrounded by a ten-block protective zone. Making new laws by a formal proclamation shades imperceptibly into precedent law wherever there is no formal legislative body the Council of Elders is a local group, having jurisdiction only over its own band.

Precedent law is based on the record of decisions made in earlier trials. The participants argue that the circumstances of the current case are similar to or identical with at least one earlier case and imply that the kris at hand should have a similar outcome. Since no two situations in life ever are identical in all respects, arguing by precedent allows much difference of opinion. One need hardly add that no litigant will refer to earlier cases with final decisions contradicting his own hoped for verdict. Frequently, parallels to the immediate case exist in a number of precedent-setting cases, with conflicting outcomes.

Precedent law is a safety valve, allowing a legal system to respond to change fairly rapidly, but at the cost of increasing the confusion in the system. These conclusions will not surprise students of juris prudence. Laws are meant to deal with an infinite number oflegal problems, classified and arranged according to a finite number of principles and types. The underlying aim is to cut down the number of major decisions that must be made.

But laws are like mass-produced clothing: they rarely fit any individual exactly without additional alteration. One way whereby a law can be changed to fit the circumstances is by applying the concept of extenuating circumstances. Gypsies place more value on extenuating circumstances than we do; they can afford to because they have a more detailed knowledge of their own people that is applicable in a kris.

Our urban society has been characterized as "uninvolved"; we can live in the same apartment house for a decade and still have only a nodding acquaintance with our immediate neighbors. But Gypsy bands are smaller, and relationships are on a face-to-face basis. Everybody knows everybody else-or someone who does. Hence a participant in a kris is bound to know the litigants and their backgrounds.

Even so, suicide rates are not high as compared to other groups; in the odd years that I have known the Rom, I have heard of only six instances. Young people threaten suicide; older people will threaten murder as capital punishment. In theory, if not in practice, there are only three types of situations that would elicit a death sentence: 1 A chief who ignored his own Big Men and, on his own initiative, violated Romany law could be killed by his people. When I first requested permission to study the Gypsies, I obtained approval from the chief.

Two weeks thereafter, however, the chiefs father a former very powerful leader himself told me that the Council of Elders would kill his son if I continued my work. Naturally I said I would stop until the Council gave its permission and I would be willing to come before the Big Men to answer any questions they might have and to let them get to know me. However, I was given the Council's permission in a few weeks. In , a Gypsy band threatened to kill a woman who had brought her baby into a hospital for surgery; the little boy had cancer and the mother's decision to risk whatever time her son had left to live by allowing an operation meant that she also risked her own life ifhe died on the operating table or as a result of the operation.

The boy is still alive and so is she. Should resort be made to capital punishment, the entire group making the decision must also share in the executioner's job to prevent revenge by the ghost. The Gypsies have a notion that there is safety in numbers, but as they are not sure of it, they seldom kill.

Lack of enforceability is a basic weakness of the kris system, and there is no mechanism within the culture to compensate for this. The whole institution is predicated upon an honor system whereby a man's word is a solemn pledge that must be fulfilled; it presupposes voluntary participation-otherwise, it falls apart. Gypsies have had long experience with gajo law, often being on the receiving end as accused criminals of one kind or another. Non-Gypsy law in terms of recognized offenses and their attendant penalties seems quite arbitrary to the Rom, and they hardly respect the American legal system.

But, like other aspects of the non-Gypsy world, it is there to be exploited when necessary.


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Do you wish to get rid of another Gypsy chief in the area? All the Rom know that the young men do most of the driving and have the least money; therefore, many parking tickets on automobiles registered in the name of a chief go unpaid the youths hide them to prevent being scolded. Let the police know about it, too, and the rival chief becomes a scofflaw. He will be required to pay the fines and with any luck at all he will be imprisoned for a while. Once having been driven to make gajo law serve Gypsy purposes, one easily goes a bit further and manufactures a little evidence. A feud with another vitsa will probably lead to some violence anyway, so how wrong is it to accuse them ofjeopardizing the morals of minors by child marriage?

Now, all Gypsies know that respectable marriages among the Rom require an economic transaction and a formal recognition via a Gypsy wedding; they do not require a marriage license. This means that Gypsy marriages, in terms of non-Gypsy law, are technically consensual unions, requiring the agreement of both parties, who must be beyond the age of consent. Gypsies also know that at first marriage the age of the bride and groom often is below 18 or even This information is neither common knowledge among outsiders nor legally condonable by them.

Both Gypsies and non-Gypsies know the ga]e attitudes toward making girls under sixteen sexually available and encouraging young boys to have sexual congress. Thus, the gaje unwittingly have provided a marvelous opportunity for harrassing a Gypsy family; indignantly one informs local authorities that a little boy and a little ' Gypsies in the City The Kris desultory conversation with the visitor.

When he left, my Gypsy sister mentioned casually that he was a detective on the Narcotics Squad. She was quite amused at my reaction. They rarely enter non-Gypsy homes, and they have only a vague idea about many non-Gypsy occupations. They must know about gaje law, the local political structure official and informal , transportation routes, communication methods. To tell fortunes successfully, they must understand the usual problems faced by their customers, their frustrations, their deepset worries, and their secret hopes.

However, those people who become steady customers are not representative of the total American population. Well-adjusted, happy, successful people do not spend their time behind a fortune teller's curtains; disturbed, lonely, rejected people with psychopathologies often do. The Gypsies are also familiar with people "on the take" who accept Gypsy bribes and hang around for more favors.

Other people with whom Gypsies interact habitually are tradespeople. The first two groups are slightly unsavory. The third entertains prejudices against the Rom, expecting them to steal; to compensate, they overcharge the Rom, act suspiciously, and treat them roughly. We who live fully within the American culture know that Gypsies are most apt to meet and interact with a special stratum of the population, not with a representative sample. We know it, but the Gypsies do not.

They are convinced that the people with whom they come into frequent contact are typical of all gaje. They do not like what they see, and they generalize the faults they find to all gaje and reach the conclusion that non-Gypsies are unclean, despicable, subhuman creatures who should be avoided as much as possible. The prejudices held by the Rom against the gaje are reciprocated by the non-Gypsies. In this way, Merton's self-fulfilling hypothesis passim comes into play. The Gypsy approaches the non-Gypsy expecting trouble, and the non-Gypsy approaches the Gypsy suspiciously, expecting double-dealing.

A clash is probable under the circumstances, and both will leave I I the encounter fully reinforced in their prejudices. For example, a physician was called in to attend a very sick Gypsy baby; he was not the first doctor called, but he was the first willing to come. We escorted him toward the back bedroom, but he stopped short of the threshold of the patient's room.

Pay me the twenty dollars before I see the patient," he demanded. Several more go-arounds occurred before I intervened. Ten dollars changed hands, and the doctor examined the patient. After the visit, I discovered the Gypsies, in revenge, did not intend to pay the other ten dollars. Each new experience adds to the general feeling of resentment: the many times sheriffs came by and made the band break camp and move to the next county while a woman was in the middle of childbirth; the places where the local people would not allow the Gypsies into food stores but insisted that the Rom pay dearly for foodstuffs they could neither choose nor see the food was rotten ; and so on.

Any positive interactions with non-Gypsies are considered to be atypical. They are forgotten rapidly if the personal exchange was a casual and temporary one. When it became clear that this was not viable and, moreover, that France had fallen, attention was turned to the more unrealistic project of deportation to Madagascar; the likelihood that this process would involve a large death toll was viewed with complacency. However, this turned out to be impracticable due to the huge scale of the plan. These authorities assumed that, since it was agreed that this would be a temporary phase, it was unnecessary to make more long-term arrangements to ensure the survival of the Jews.

This division became the formula for later selections in the extermination camps and ghettos. From the late summer of on, women and children were also targeted. Soon this mass murder ceased to be limited to the USSR. It was this constellation that paved the way for Aktion Reinhard against the Polish Jews and the mass extermination of the rest of European Jewry.

Moreover, the decision in the autumn of to use the labor of Soviet POWs and civilians undermined economic arguments against the murder of the Jews. All together some 5. Of these, , were still in POW camps in January Another , had escaped or been liberated by the Soviet army. The remaining 3. As a result, over a million people died of hunger in the first months of imprisonment.

Many had to march for hundreds of kilometers behind the front. Wehrmacht guards shot those who became exhausted along the way. Where the prisoners were transported by rail, the Wehrmacht permitted only the use of open freight cars. The cold Russian winter and denial of food, often for days at a time, led to enormous losses. For the areas intended as camps, nothing more than barbed wire had been provided.

The prisoners, worn out by the march and weakened by malnutrition, had few resources with which to counter the cold, contagion and hunger-related diseases in the temporary camps. The number of Jewish Red Army soldiers taken prisoner alone is estimated at some 85, Without exception, any identified as Jews were killed. It had become clear that the Soviet Union would not be as easily beaten as the Germans had hoped. In view of a threatening labor shortage, the German mining industry in particular became the leading advocate of the use of Soviet labor, but the SS and the party leadership rejected this out of hand.

A compromise was reached: Soviet POWs and civilians would be used, but under conditions that included maximum exploitation, strict isolation from the German population, miserable treatment and provisioning, and imposition of the death penalty for even minor infractions. Yet the discrimination against and oppression of Gypsies that characterized the first years of National Socialist rule were not merely a continuation of traditional Gypsy policy.

While some municipalities and lower police authorities used traditional methods such as high rents, substandard living conditions, sudden foreclosures or even the destruction of camping areas, as well as harassing police checks, to control Gypsy groups, others forced the Gypsies into centralized, sometimes fenced and even guarded camps.

Moreover, these efforts to move the Gypsies from open sites or private quarters to local camps must be seen in relation to the overall camp system created under the Third Reich almost as soon as the NSDAP came to power.

"Traveling Gypsy" New York City

Anti- Gypsy agitation grew in the press and in professional journals, while, as of , some Gypsies were sterilized under the Law to Prevent Genetically Deficient Offspring. According to this notion, crime prevention should have the same status as detection. Once the war had begun, this persecution underwent further sharp radicalization.

In parallel with the expulsions of Poles and Jews motivated by a Germanizing population policy, policy makers now looked to resettle the Gypsies in occupied Poland. The first to be affected were 2, people from the western territories of the Reich. In a second step, 5, Roma from the Austrian Burgenland were deported in fall Thus, when Himmler, Heydrich, and the criminal police saw an opportunity to deport these Gypsies, and despite the protests of the ghetto administration and the mayor of Lodz, who predicted overcrowding, food shortages and epidemics, they sent the Burgenland Roma to the Lodz ghetto.

Shortly after the transports arrived, the housing and food situation indeed became ever more unbearable and epidemics spread. The German officials who had predicted the catastrophe had arranged conditions so that this would actually occur. The Burgenland Gypsies, like the Jews, were suffocated in gas vans in Kulmhof.

Gypsies in the City: Culture Patterns and Survival | UVA Library | Virgo

The Einsatzgruppen murdered the Gypsies who fell into their hands, but did not search for them with the zeal employed in ferreting out Jews and Communists. Based on eyewitness testimony and extensive court investigations, it has often been claimed that the Gypsies were shot in rural police raids that were typically directed against partisans or the Jewish underground.

Yet in the Generalgouvernement , Gypsies also risked death when they remained hidden in a village. Moreover, the German police shot many Gypsies—along with Poles, Jews, and Soviet prisoners of war—in retribution for partisan attacks that they had not carried out. According to a model of persecution instituted by Wehrmacht units in the USSR and the German occupation administration in Latvia in , 20 he ordered police in the Generalgouvernement in August not to proceed against sedentary Gypsies as a rule, meaning as long as they were not criminals or did not collaborate with the partisans.

The designated victims were males aged between 14 and At the end of October , they decided on a temporary solution: the construction of a camp in Semlin Zemun on the bank of the Sava River opposite Belgrade. On 8 December , the Jews, and most probably the Gypsies as well, were transported to Semlin, now under the command of the German Security Police. Yugoslav historians have estimated the number of Jews incarcerated there at 7,, along with Roma women and children. The exact date of their release remains unclear.

In his trial, former Semlin commandant Herbert Andorfer recalled that the Roma were released immediately prior to the commencement of the murder of Jewish women and children, hence in March In , Himmler had begun to develop an interest in the Indian origin of the Gypsies. This order and the subsidiary decrees that followed it provided for the deportation of Gypsies from Germany, Austria, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Later, they were also deported from Poland, Russia and Lithuania.

The guidelines for deportation, which were progressively radicalized in practice, established a hierarchy of three groups, defined in racial terms. This was a death sentence—but one that was never made explicit and which allowed the responsible authorities to maintain the pretence that, since in Auschwitz the camp commandant was in charge, they were not answerable for the predictable death of the Gypsies. The great majority of them—like the Soviet POWs—perished of hunger, sickness and epidemic diseases.

In order to make space for the Jews from Hungary and other countries whom the SS did not immediately murder on arrival, the Gypsy camp was liquidated at the beginning of August Yet, contrary to these stereotypes, Gypsies and Travellers traded with, worked and lived alongside the rest of the population: an analysis of the traditional songs sung by Gypsies and Travellers, for example, shows significant overlap with those current in wider society, suggesting a high degree of interaction between the communities, particularly in casual agricultural and seasonal labour.

Gypsies lived in peri-urban encampments or even cheap lodging in cities over winter alongside working-class populations, making and selling goods, moving in regular circuits across the countryside in the spring and summer, picking up seasonal work, hawking and attending fairs. As one gypsiologist, Arthur Symons, wrote in the early 20th century:.

The Gypsies represent nature before civilisation As David Mayall observed:. These half-breeds were said to have inherited all the vices of the Romany and the Gaujo [non-Gypsy] but none of their virtues. For gypsiologists anxious to discover a Golden Age and a pure Gypsy culture this outlook allowed them to pursue their pet theories, with any contradictory findings dismissed as the result of cultural pollution and miscegenation. Just as the impetus to romanticise Gypsies gained ground in the later 19th century, so too did negative stereotypes, as a growing body of opinion saw Travellers as being out of step with modern society.

Along with longstanding beliefs about the lazy and lawless nature of Gypsies came newer concerns about their unsanitary habits, which were seen as anachronistic in a nation that increasingly set store by its housing and sanitary legislation. Added to this were commonly expressed sentiments that they were escaping from paying taxes and consequently evaded the responsibilities that came with modern living.